Nature Puts on Show for Kids

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Patterson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Third-grader Ryan Hebert stopped in his tracks Tuesday and gently parted a tuft of prairie grass behind Jacobs High School in Algonquin.

"I wish I had those in my back yard," he said.

Unaware of its admirer, the colorful garden spider went about its business in the early afternoon sun.

And all around, so did a thousand more insects as Ryan and his classmates continued a special fall prairie tour courtesy Cliff Doll's Prairie Wetlands class.

"If you can teach it, you must have learned it," Doll said of his students.

The 28 juniors and seniors enrolled in the class were in charge of teaching about 80 third-graders from nearby Lincoln Prairie Elementary School in Lake in the Hills about the different types of prairie plants, insects and other features on the restored prairie area behind the high school.

Called Prairie Pals, the lesson is part of Jacobs' nationally recognized service learning program - an effort that gets high schoolers involved in educational activities with younger students, those in special education classes and even senior citizens.

"You get the big ones helping the little ones and they also get out into the community," Doll said.

The 5-acre prairie at Jacobs has been an ongoing project in itself at the school since 1997.

About half is developed. Classes like Doll's spend hours weeding and identifying species in the fall and planting new native plants in the spring. The goal is to eventually seed and develop the rest of the land, he said.

On Tuesday, small groups of third-grade students tromped along prairie paths jotting down the names and characteristics of plants like the prairie-dock, Canadian wild rye, Indian grass and milkweed, among others. …